Quite apart from having a good battle with the rest of the fleet, you get a lot more time and opportunity to observe the boats around you when the wind is a bit light. Stuff I observed included:
- Too much kicker. In some of those races any kicker at all was too much. The leech of the mainsail sticks out like a sore thumb, the flow across the sail stalls, and you go nowhere. I didn't see any Fireballs doing this, but there were a few other craft out there who clearly don't get the sort of critical feedback that Fireball ownership confers
- Too little kicker. We spent a lot of our time yesterday chasing Paul and Nick around, they were very fast upwind but dog slow offwind. The reason, easily identifiable from behind (where I spent a lot of my time), was that the boom was rising on the 3 sail reach, the leech was wide open, the top of the sail was doing nothing at all and the bottom was oversheeted to compensate. Thinking about this after the event, the kite's main duty on a 3-sail reach is to drive more air across the back of the mainsail (or something), so you should expect to need more kicker than at other times for a given windstrength. Anyway, I pointed this out to Paul, he eased the main and banged on some kicker and promptly sailed away from me again, so I guess it worked.
- Sitting on the wrong side of the boat while the crew is trapezing. Some guys can read the mainsail even from underneath it, but most of us can't. If you get the chance to sit facing it instead of underneath it, take it, get the crew back in, sit or stand well forward in the boat and keep playing the mainsail and keep watching the luff. Crew tightens up the kite, the luff of the main starts to lift, and if you don't notice then you're going backwards.
- Mainsail too full. When it gets into seriously light-n-fluffy territory, the standard issue full-cut mainsail is too full and just doesn't work. Last Sunday 1st race I went with 22'8", strut forward an inch and no kicker. And I was so far down the toilet by the end of the race that I was round the U-bend and halfway to the sea. For the 2nd race I went with 22'6" (ie, more pre-bend), and I pulled the strut on by at least 2". Now the leech was visibly wide open and I had a much more successful race, even with 13st of crew-ballast malingering around at the front of the boat. Interestingly, as the wind picked up, I dropped the strut back towards neutral and it apparently went just as well. But Pete B said he left his strut forward and put some kicker on to tighten the leech, and that it worked really well. As he just beat me, you might want to take note of that one
Yesterday was also notable because it was the first outing for new winter members Pete and David Slack, welcome to Draycote guys and let's hope that we get a nice mild winter with plenty of wind so you get really good value out of your time here.